Have you heard about people who’ve taken sick days to recuperate from the heavy emotional toll of world events? When a tragedy strikes, some people are so caught up in the details and the stories that it affects their ability to function.

Even if you don’t feel incapacitated, you still run the risk of feeling powerless and hopeless in the light of so many tragic and terrible things happening all around the world.

Whether it’s North Korea, Iran, Ukraine, Uganda, Nepal, Kosovo, or a dozen other places in the world, tragic wars and disease and suffering have occurred on a massive scale.

We see the breaking news hit our social feeds and we tune in to see what is going on. With real-time news and user generated content, we can easily devote a significant portion of our time and attention to the stories of other people’s problems halfway around the world.

This is not a message for everyone to stop caring about those less fortunate.

However, in the meantime, there are people in our own neighborhoods with needs. There are people in our same counties who are suffering.

But doesn’t it make me a bad person if I don’t stay caught up with the tragic suffering of people in less fortunate countries?

That’s a tough question. The answer is NO. But ignoring the suffering of others MAY be your way of staying focused on the significant tasks you are responsible for in your everyday life. Think about it: If you spend 3 hours a day consuming stories and updates on someone else’s suffering you aren’t making better, what could you have done with those three hours to make your life and the lives of your neighbors better? There are ACTUAL people in your life who need you, even if you’ve never spoken.

C.S. Lewis addressed this issue:

“I think each village was meant to feel pity for its own sick and poor whom it can help and I doubt if it is the duty of any private person to fix his mind on ills which he cannot help. This may even become an escape from the works of charity we really can do to those we know. God may call any one of us to respond to some far away problem or support those who have been so called. But we are finite and he will not call us everywhere or to support every worthy cause. And real needs are not far from us.”

– C. S. Lewis

If we feel helpless to make a difference in the face of so much darkness all around the world, perhaps we can come to terms with our own limitations and accept that if a million of “us” take care of our neighbors, everything changes.

Your neighbor shouldn’t have to wait for someone in Europe or Australia to hear about the terrifying conditions people experience in your home town in order for someone to care or take action. You are close for a reason. These people are the sphere of your ACTUAL influence.

It takes courage to actually go and do something. May we all find the courage and make the choice to be a good neighbor.

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